Brand New Thing
by Te

It would be better if she could just hold on to the rage. Not good, but better. As it was, the shock just faded into this... ugly roil of emotion that made her face feel hot and her belly heave.

Xander cheated on her. Xander cheated on her... the attempt to grab the outrage failed. Again. There was only her and the ache that couldn't be blamed on her new scar.

Another thing to thank Xander for.

She kept finding scraps of photos in her bedclothes, on the floor. Bits of smile, brown hair, ugly clothes that still had the nerve to seem... endearing.

It would all be gone the moment she allowed Marisa to clean her room, but then... it would all be gone.

Cordelia was positive there was meaning to be found in all the paper, all the memories. If she could find it, then she could find everything else, too... including the part of herself she'd given to Xander and somehow forgotten to take back.

She shifted on the bed and felt something jab her leg lightly... another bit of photo. Red hair and sunshine and pure bright... innocence.

She felt her lip curl at that, which was good, a start. Sunshine and flowers and straight A's and o-mouthed shock at the idea of anyone ever doing wrong. Nothing wrong at all about stealing another girl's boyfriend. Not when it's Xander, of course, because Xander always belonged to Willow.

Of course. Xander's birthday was coming up. Maybe she would just go ahead and do what Willow was too much of a wuss to do herself: buy him a studded dog collar with a nice, short leash.

Fuck this. She tested the words out in her mind, turning them over and over. Tasting them. Fuck this. She studied her room, the sad pathetic chaos of paper and clothes that just made her think of how much Xander had liked her in them and --

"Fuck. This."

Cordelia kicked the covers off her legs and got out of bed. A faded and threadbare pair of jeans peeked out from under the bed, she pulled them on over the pajama shorts.

Ran a brush haphazardly through her tangles, wincing as the movement pulled at the scars.

Throw a jacket over the pajama top, stepped into some tennis shoes and headed out, barely pausing to yell an order at the back of Marisa's head.

Outside it was just barely night, sky still vaguely orange and sidewalk still warm through the soles of her shoes. Cordelia felt the beginnings of a smile forming behind her face and decided to let it show in her eyes as she walked.

She held onto it right up until the moment she realized that she was headed straight for the Bronze. The music was audible from two blocks away, and dozens of couples just seemed to... melt that way.

She caught a glimpse of herself in a plate glass window and wondered what the hell she was doing. She had to get back home, fast as she could, before anybody could see her. Had to be ready to make an entrance, makeup had to be -- she wasn't even wearing makeup.

Cordelia turned and started moving -- right into the gravedusty (she knew that smell by heart) chest of a goddamned vampire who of course -- of course had its filthy cold paw over her mouth.

God, did she ever not have time for this.

She kicked hard at the thing, or tried to. Her right side wasn't responding all that well. For the first time she actually focused on the vampire with the realization that she could actually die. It didn't seem fair, really. There should be some rule, get attacked by vampires more than three times and survive, earn a free pass for life.

She kicked again, oddly pleased to feel fear bleeding back into a stronger brand of anger than she'd been able to manage since before the factory, but the vampire just laughed in her face.

The thing looked familiar, too. Probably used to be on the chess club or some other worthless thing. The former wannabes were always the worst. Always with axes to grind, most of them against her. You'd think they'd just let bygones --

And then she was on the ground, and being pelted with dust. Great, she'd have to thank Buffy now, and if there was anyone she didn't want to see --

"Hey, you OK?"

Not Buffy's voice... she looked up to see Faith, quite possibly the most welcome skank she'd ever seen. "Faith! Thank God it's you."

The other girl smirked, offered her a hand. There were calluses on it, worse than a quarterback's. But it was a warm hand, at least, and reasonably clean to her eyes. Today's fashion don't was just tight... everything. She wondered if it made it easier or harder to fight. Certainly the kicks would have to be a little uncomfortable... Cordelia stood, painfully. It felt like someone had placed a burning coal just above her right hip.

"Are you OK? You look like you're... oh."

Cordelia realized dully that yes, of course, everybody knew. "Yeah, oh. I'll be fine." She pulled her hand away from Faith's, glad she had enough self-control not to just yank it. "I... I'm just gonna be headed home."

Faith was looking at her curiously, half-frowning. "I thought you were headed out?"

"Dressed like this?" She felt the blush creeping up from under her silk pajama top. Where the hell was her mind? "You've got to be kidding."

In response Faith gave her a thorough once-over, small pauses making Cordelia acutely aware of just what she must look like. Battered sneakers, no socks, frayed jeans, pajamas... there had to be a better etiquette for moments like this. The short-form or something. Thank the nice Slayer who saved your life, get home and get all the dirt off --

"... fine to me."


"I said..." Another smile from Faith, right into her eyes. "You look just fine to me. Red silk jammies and old jeans... you look like the after picture of a real good fuck."

"That would be the way you judge fashion, wouldn't it. Tell you what, Faith -- you handle the slaying, and I'll handle the style."

Faith shook her head, half-rolled her eyes. Leaned up against the plate glass window that had started Cordelia's trouble in the first place. She could see it shaking a little at Faith's weight. "Whatever. Maybe it's time you considered a new look."

That was almost a leer on her face... Faith? Sure, she cut a swathe through the males in Sunnydale, but what if she was just overcompensating? A ho, to be sure, but an over*compensating* ho. Cordelia felt the urge to make sure her top was completely buttoned.

And another urge to go shoplift a bra.

And another urge to erase whatever look on her face made Faith smirk at her again.


"Nothin', C. C'mon, I'll walk you home."


"Clear, concise, to the point... I like it. Come on, before somebody else gets a look at you and starts drooling for a meal."

The urge to demand to be left alone, to haughtily insist she'd be just fine on her own died a quick death. Dignity was all well and good, but Sunnydale was... well, Sunnydale. Cordelia let Faith fall into step beside her, and wondered what to say.

All of a sudden, she didn't really feel like heading home. It felt like defeat somehow.... there was no way Marisa would have already made all the... mess disappear. Cordelia had an image of herself being led back to prison, with Faith as the cheerfully disturbing matron.

A glance to her right -- yes, Faith really was casually walking between Cordelia and the darkened yards -- didn't make the images any less disturbing. Faith was scanning their surroundings constantly, nose up, apparently scenting the air. It was... alien. Were Slayers really human?

A quiet voice suggested that wasn't a good question to ask... it sounded a lot like Giles, so occasionally she chose to listen to it. More often these days than in the past.

Faith sighed.

"What is it?"

"Quiet night."

"Are you complaining?"

Faith gave her a mostly unreadable look. "Well, c'mon, that one who had you was way too easy. He didn't even see me coming."

"Let me get this straight, you prefer it when you actually have to risk your life?"

That earned a full-bore grin. It made Faith look young... how old were Slayers when they got called? "I get bored sometimes, C... not a fuck of a lot to do out by the docks. Well, not a lot that doesn't require bathing in disinfectant afterward."

"I can imagine... unfortunately."

"My apologies, Cordelia, didn't mean to mess up your pure little thoughts."

The sarcasm was obvious, and completely unexpected. Faith was no longer paying attention to anything that wasn't right in front of her face. "Hello, mood swing much? They have pills for that, I hear."

Faith shot her a look and then went back to grimly studying the space just in front of her nose. "Just drop it, all right?"

"Drop what? Jesus, what did I say?"

"You just... look, I already know what you think of me. You don't have to fucking grind it in."

"Is this some social consciousness thing? Because I wasn't aware I was still in history class."

"You're a first class trip, you know it? How about you shut up until I get you home, huh?"

"How about you slay yourself an attitude adjustment? And where do you get off calling me pure, anyway? Excuse me, but I dress a whole lot better than little miss Snow Willow." And God, but it felt good to yell a little, whether or not she made any sense. Her voice bounced back off the houses, which were getting larger and more familiar with every step.

"I... fuck."

"Yeah, and me shop. Are you done angsting at me, yet? Because I didn't bring a tear towel with me."

Faith narrowed her eyes for another moment before shaking her head and snickering. "Snow Willow?"

"If the gingham fits..."

"I have to admit, you at least make the inevitable bitterness entertaining, C."

She felt her lips twitch at the return of 'C.' "I'm not bitter, I'm just feeling more honest than I have in a while."

"Honest and..."

"Honest and bitter, fine. But I think I'm allowed to be bitter, dammit. I mean, he cheated on me. With Willow. Do you have any idea where my reputation is right now?"

"Slightly better than mine?"

"Exactly, and that's just wrong."

"I'd have to agree with you there, C... I know how much it sucks when you get punished for somebody else's fuckup..."

Cordelia heard the edge starting to creep back into Faith's voice and chanced a look over. Faith seemed to be elsewhere. Cordelia weighed her options and decided it was better to have a potentially angry and alert Slayer than a mopey, drifting one. "Yeah, I should've at least gotten to do the entire football team first."

Faith snorted, then snickered. "Nah, they're overrated. Soccer players, now..."

"Funny, I would think you'd go more for the..."

Raised eyebrow. "For the...?"

"Field hockey team."

Briefly ominous pause. "Is that what you thought?" Even more ominous tone.


"Because you're wrong, you know."

Placate the Slayer-in-denial, placate the Slayer... "Anything you say --"

"I'm way more into cheerleaders."

"I mean... oh."

"Yeah, oh." Faith was smiling at nothing in particular. "Those tiny flippy skirts, the cute little socks, all the bouncing..."

"That's just great, Faith, make everything about me pornographic."

"How do you know I haven't been?"

A series of images, moments of her life, possessions... Cordelia shook herself out of it when she caught herself trying to figure out just how, exactly, Faith could corrupt her makeup kit. "You're kidding me, right?"

"Would it make you feel better if I was?"

Would it? Maybe, but she was having too much fun to risk it. "No, no... far be it from me to discourage people from wanting me."

"Heh. Need someone to polish that pedestal for ya?"

"You just want to look up my skirt."

"You're not wearing a skirt."

"If there was anyone in the world capable of peeking up someone's jeans, it's you."

"It's true, I'm a woman of many talents."

Cordelia didn't notice the smile on her face until they'd walked a while in silence, and then she felt it fall. It wasn't so much a return of the godawful mopiness -- though she could feel it lurking just behind her bedroom door -- as a simple fatigue. Like she needed to conserve energy for something. Probably the stupid depression. God, she hoped Xander was suffering...

"... worry, you know?"


"I said... you don't have to worry. About me, that is. I'm not gonna jump you or anything... I'm pretty sure that's not my style."

"Jump me... I... oh. I'm not worried."

"Good. That's good."

"I know you wouldn't... Unless I asked, right?"

Faith almost, but not quite, tripped over a crack in the sidewalk. She recovered quickly, though. Cordelia watched her pull her butch on like a big warm coat. "Right. Plan on asking?"

Cordelia straightened up and did her best to shine at Faith -- mildly. The real one. "I get bored sometimes..."

"Uh, huh... c'mere..."

Faith grabbed her hand and started tugging her up the Charles' driveway.

"Faith! What are you doing? They'll see us..."

"Check out the windows, C -- all dark. They're either sleeping or out. And no chains or anything in the yard means no dogs."


Faith paused for a moment. "You coming?"

Loud, loud voices in her mind, nasal and superior: 'And did you hear about Cordelia? Yeah, gets dumped by her pet loser and now she's a -- oh, hi, Cordelia. Hey, I heard Indigo Girls tickets were on sale...' And the laughter.

She felt her palm getting damp in Faith's. Felt Faith feel it and start to pull away. Cordelia squeezed the other girl's hand reflexively, but it wasn't enough to keep her there. "Faith, I..."

"Hey, don't worry about it... I don't really get into rebound sex, you know?" Vague plea in her voice.

Cordelia swallowed. "Yeah, you're right, never a good plan."

"Feel free to look me up when you're, you know... over it."

"Yeah... um... maybe I will." Her voice sounded flat to her own ears. She knew her own tones too well. "I live just a few houses down...."

Faith nodded.

"I can... get there..."

"On your own, yeah."

"OK... thanks again, Faith. I mean it..."

And just then she felt a hand curling into the material of her top and pulling her in close and then soft lips on her own. And then not so soft. Faith smelled like old smoke and something not-quite-sweet that was probably her natural scent. She tasted like watermelon Jolly Ranchers.

Cordelia sucked a little on the tongue in her mouth and tried to press closer... Faith kept her at a distance, though, making her feel cold all over save for her lips and the place where Faith's palm rested and the place where Cordelia wanted it to rest.

And then it was over.

"Later, C."

"You..." What? Was there anything to say? "Later."

Cordelia walked up the last few hundred feet to her house, confident that, at the very least, Faith was watching her go.